Getting an international SME from A to Z.

At Athlon, our customers are always our starting point. No matter how big or small their fleet. But every segment has different needs. We had a talk with our colleague Elke Beeken, our Key Account Manager for international Small and Medium Enterprises.

Elke Beeken on sofa

    What is a typical international SME (Small Medium Enterprises) customer?

    "Most people expect SME customers to be very small. They’re often surprised to hear that SME customers have international fleets. But why not? In fact, on a fleet management level, SME needs are similar to those of larger companies. The obvious difference is that international SMEs don’t have as many cars on the road as large customers. Personally, I manage customers who have fleets of up to 600 cars on international scale."

    Are there other ways international SME customers differ from corporate international customers?

    "You’ll often find that at an SME, the international fleet manager is also the local fleet manager and on top of that, they might even have another role in HR, or Procurement or Sourcing. The good news is that with the smaller fleet size, this often works surprisingly well. Because there’s just one person, they’re more aware of the topics, challenges and issues in local operations, as well as international operations."

    This may also be the reason behind one of the other major differences. International SMEs often work without any real fleet or car policy. If they do, the approach is usually less detailed compared to corporate customers. For example, SMEs mostly use traditional solutions like full operational car leasing. They might not have realised they’re ready for other mobility solutions like bike leasing, car sharing or flexible mobility solutions. And that’s where Athlon International really makes a difference. We advise them on how to expand their mobility policy.

    Another difference is the number of lease providers. Most international SMEs work with ten or more different leasing companies. This makes it more difficult to conduct follow-ups; renewals, switch drivers, costs and so forth. When you think about the time involved in all of this, you see why they haven’t been looking into other mobility solutions. Our job here is to provide the tools and services that make the leasing more efficient."

    What challenges do your international SME customers face?

    "Fleet managers at international SMEs are often the person their drivers go to for advice. Questions about quotes, maintenance, insurance, tyres and everything else are all for the fleet manager. And while they want to help, this is a huge extra workload. Especially if it involves different leasing companies, maintenance suppliers, insurance companies and so forth.

    Despite the extra work it represents, if fleet managers have been taking care of their drivers for a long time, they’re often reluctant to refer them to the local Athlon driver desks or account teams. But once the extra work is off their plate, they appreciate the fact it’s gone.

    Another challenge is with tenders. Not all our international SME prospects know how to set up an international tender in a way that clearly and correctly compares information and highlights the provider that’s right for them. We help our international SME customers with challenges like this."

    Business Woman Blond Back Of The Car Working Laptop

    What general advice can you give international SME customers?

    "It’s very important to know your current fleet. You need to know in which countries you have vehicles on the road and whether the vehicles are leased or owned. You need to know what the fleet costs are, which services you use, and which services drivers are allowed to use. There’s also the question of who is actually entitled to a vehicle. This isn’t always clear. Which is why it’s good to have a car policy in place. And once you do, you need to know it like the back of your hand.

    But you don’t want to limit yourself to the here and now. The leasing industry is changing, which means it’s important to think about the future and the future of your fleet. What do you want to achieve? Everything from environmental concerns to corporate goals come into play. And how do you want to achieve it? Electric vehicles or alternative mobility solutions? You need to know who your internal stakeholders are and who is responsible for making decisions about your approach to the fleet.

    Once you have all this information in one place, you’ll want to make a possible future fleet concept. When you reach out to the market, you’ll know what you want. You’ll be able to make sure you get it."

    Why should an international SME choose Athlon as their mobility partner?

    "At Athlon International we keep things simple. We appoint a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) at the international level; a dedicated account manager who has the answers on how to best manage a fleet. The SPOC is completely backed up by our Global Coordination Center and the combined insight and expertise of everyone working there.

    Plus, we will set up an international framework agreement. In other words, the customer immediately knows all the international conditions for its fleet. This also cuts down the legal workload at a local level.

    Another benefit of working with Athlon, is that all data will be in one place. This is vital for efficient international fleet management. The fleet manager gets access to a free online international reporting tool which will save him loads of time. 

    However, any choice should be based on what the customer is looking for in a mobility partner. Athlon International is always there to guide the way. We know all the ins and outs of mobility. No matter how big or small the fleet is. Athlon is just a phone call away."